Press Review

Stanislav Gross

With the exception of Hospodarske Noviny, all major Czech dailies lead today with Interior Minister Stanislav Gross's announcement he is prepared to stand for the post of Social Democrat chairman at the party's congress next year.

Commentator Alexandr Mitrofanov writes in Pravo that if the Social Democrats do poorly in any of the elections scheduled for this year, the party will face a major crisis. According to Mitrofanov, the party has now come up with a scenario meant to prevent chaos in its ranks. That is: in the case of election failure, the Central Bohemian branch of the Social Democrats will call on Stanislav Gross to stand for party head and lead the party out of the crisis. The commentator says in Pravo that the chance of an election success for the party is so improbable it is not even worth considering.

In an opinion piece in Mlada Fronta Dnes political analyst Bohumil Dolezal presents his - as he says catastrophic - scenario of future happenings in the Social Democrat party. According to Mr Dolezal, the coalition government is going to collapse as a result of internal conflicts in the Social Democrat party. The Czech President will then appoint former premier Milos Zeman as interim prime minister.

Bohumil Dolezal adds that Mr Zeman enjoys a certain amount support of from President Vaclav Klaus, as well as the opposition Civic Democrats and Communists. Milos Zeman would have to prepare the Social Democrats for the new development, and according to Bohumil Dolezal, the best opportunity would be at an extraordinary party congress. The congress would produce a new party leadership loyal to Mr Zeman and the party would get rid of a few dissidents, says Mr Dolezal in Mlada Fronta Dnes. He says the opposition Civic Democrats would welcome that development, which would allow them to prepare for an early election.

Bohuslav Sobotka,  photo: CTK
The business daily Hospodarske Noviny writes that the governing coalition currently does not have enough votes in the lower house to push through changes in the VAT rates, on which the heads of the coalition parties agreed last week. Two MPs for the smallest coalition party, the Freedom Union, say they won't support the proposal. With just a one-seat majority in the lower house, the coalition needs every vote to push through its bills, says Hospodarske Noviny.

According to the daily, another thorn in the side of the Freedom Union is the Social Democrats' reluctance to stick to last week's agreement on a gradual increase in regulated rents. The agreement between the Minister for Local Development Pavel Nemec of the Freedom Union and Finance Minister and Social Democrat Bohuslav Sobotka stipulated a 10-percent annual increase in the next three years. But after some Social Democrat MPs questioned the agreement, Minister Sobotka admitted the yearly increase in regulated rents could be two to three percent lower than previously agreed. If the coalition agreement on regulated rents is indeed amended, the coalition may lose the loyalty of other MPs, Hospodarske Noviny predicts.

Lidove Noviny elaborates on a recent survey commissioned by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs which investigated attitudes towards family and the upbringing of children in the Czech Republic. The poll suggests that more than 75 percent of Czechs think that it is the mother who should take care of small children, while the husband should be the breadwinner in the family. Lidove Noviny says that women are more conservative in their views than men as to the perception of their role in the family. They underestimate men's skills as parents and see themselves as more important for the rearing of children.

The chairwoman of the governmental council for equal opportunities, Anna Curdova, tells Lidove Noviny that it is necessary to ask why the Czech society still sticks to such stereotypes fourteen years after the fall of communism. She added that people between 20 and 30 years of age see things differently. The survey suggests that people under 29 and those with university education are less conservative in their views on parenting and roles in the family, writes Lidove Noviny.